I can now be found wandering the halls of substack, where my unfiltered, uncensored thoughts – which often serve as fodder for my writing – come through.
It’s a little like the opening sequence to The Ray Bradbury Theater television show, which showed the magnificent clutter he had that served as inspiration for his stories. Except, for me, most of it is in my mind because I don’t care for too much clutter. I would also say that my cluttered mind is mostly about poetry with a mix of kink, tarot and moon hijinks, my insane ability to sniff out a liar, missed romantic opportunities, and my inability to wear shoes well out in the real world.
Take a visit, subscribe if you feel inclined. I dare say you will like it.
Blame it on the pandemic and my quarantine but, increasingly, I am faced with the desire to read and write work work that pushes the boundaries of expected text. I’m a poet through and through but in the last 9 months I’ve also managed short stories, am 90 pages into a memoir, created an operetta that was funded and produced twice in the matter of a few months. I like to let the writing lead, to let the truest form of a written piece come through. This has been challenging in the way that someone you love can surprise you by something they say or an unexpected trajectory they take. If the love is real and the move is good, as the person in love with the writing I have to let go so the truest story can come through.
I am intrigued by hybridity. When I first approached my work with its practice in mind I thought of the haibun, a literary form originating in Japan that combines prose and haiku. I always like to look for these “found” poems that I think are in the realm of hybridity. Some ways in are:
Black Out Poetry, which takes a found document and pulls only the words that call the viewer who then creates a new work either through stringing the words in the order they appear or crafting a new piece based on the words still visible. See Torrin A. Greathouse’s example of a black out haibun.
Distillation is an exercise I use when I realize I am using language to cover up what is difficult to say. The practice includes pulling a written piece, cutting half the words once, then again, then once more if the document is long enough. This distills it to its most true moment. Sometimes, when I am having trouble writing, I pull an old song, write some of its lines and cut it down in the same way to get a starting idea for a poem. I got this idea from a workshop led by Frank X. Walker.
Autohistoria, a mixed text form of writing that combines testimonio, history, mythology, narrative, and poetry. The term was created by queer Chicana theorist and poet Gloria Anzaldua.
The Golden Shovel, a writing exercise crafted by Terrance Hayes in homage to Gwendolyn Brooks that has the last word in each line read as one of Brooks’ poems. Hayes’ poem balloons “we real cool”.
Visual poetry sits on the page as part artifact, mapping, structured text, etc. Rodney Gomez’s work is a good example. I haven’t ventured into this yet but do incorporate doodles and textual maps when I’m considering how to approach a new piece.
Patching holes is another idea I use to add layers to my work. This includes found dialogue or phrases I use as a foundational stone in a written piece. I got this idea from the cento, a literary collage that works lines from other poets’ work into a new poem. I use the cento to free associations between disparate objects. In my work, I patch in some found text into an existing or draft piece.
As I have incorporated hybridity into my own writing I found, once I let go of expectations by mass literary markets to pigeonhole creative work into knowable forms, that I naturally wrote work that brought in distinct elements like music, chanting, and storytelling (as in my operetta, she wears bells). I also enjoyed creating characters whose work/voice included aspects of their lives like poems they write, manuals they are reading, or translations they are creating.
Hybridity is a natural expression within people of color. We are multilingual socially. Culturally, our backgrounds come from multiple spaces and understandings. We are mestizos, a mezcla of possibilities and futures. We speak high register and low register and all the joy in between. Hybridity is an unloosening of restrictions placed on our voices. It is joy provoking, like a warm kitchen with unexpected love ones in conversation. Look at your daily life to see the hybridity within it then pull that beauty into your writing.
A year ago I found myself unencumbered. I wasn’t sure how I would do. I can’t say this year has been horrible or amazing but both, and certainly well-lived. I was newly single, finishing my book, and learning to again depend on just myself. I wrote this one line poem and didn’t even remember it:
this moon, caked in honey – a single crystal star its admirer
Sometimes I write while I am half asleep, this allows for no filter, no ego, no second guessing. I am glad this poem came back to me. That it spoke of my belief in joy and the sweetness of life is hopeful to me now. Yes, the poem, but moreso the poet voice behind this poem, who was facing so much and still managed to see possibility.
Palo Alto Community College is a happening spot for writers and performers. Their newest FREE offering ups it to new levels! Niurca Marquez will be here July 12 & 13 for workshops and a discussion. Don’t miss out.
July 12: Embodying Text to Action – for performance practitioners of any theatrical practice; actors, movement artists, performance artists, dancers, choreographers, and anyone wishing to understand how an embodied praxis can develop a narrative idea.
July 13: Body Writing Lab – workshop benefitting anyone who wants to understand how embodiment can inform a writing practice, and is open to professional and recreational writers of any experience.
July 13: Conversation Circle – open to the community, an opportunity to learn more about Niurca and her work, to dialogue about artistic practice and its intersection with community, activism, and politics.
My book, Michael +Josephine, was a surprise novel in verse for me. When I sat down that first morning I had only two ideas in my head: that the archangel was present whenever feathers appeared in your path AND the struggle to navigate love while also being centered on community engagement.
Both very abstract ideas, yes, but slowly the story unfolded. I wasn’t surprised it came out as poetry. I’m a poet. But I was surprised a story – with an outline, characters, and final outcome – were appearing.
Come November I’ll take others on their path toward a novel in verse. Join me at Gemini Ink. Your story is ready for you.
Notes to Gilgamesh: Crafting a Novel in Verse
The novel in verse traces its origin to the epic poem, filled with its heroes and battles. Its literary resurgence speaks to its ability to provide a voice to marginalized communities. This four-session workshop will bridge the structure and narrative of the novel with the immediacy and imagery of poetry. Participants will consider contemporary examples of the form and begin their own novel in verse.